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Brussels, 19 February 2013
Competitiveness Council – 20-21 February 2014
On 20 February, Mr Kostas Hatzidakis, Minister for Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, will chair the Council for the industry and internal market points. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship; Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, Commissioner for Competition; Commissioner Michel Barnier responsible for Internal Market and Services and Commissioner Tonio Borg, responsible for Health.
On 21 February, Mr Christos Vasilakos, Secretary General for Research and Technology at the Ministry for Education and Research, will chair the Council for the research and space points. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship and Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, responsible for Research and Innovation.
Thursday, 20 February
On 20 February, the Competitiveness Council will kick off the political debate on EU industrial competitiveness in the run-up to the March 2014 European Council on industrial competitiveness. The latter will provide a unique opportunity to strengthen Europe’s industrial competitiveness by mobilising actors to implement concrete measures across the economy to deliver industrial change. High-level political support is needed to facilitate the implementation of industrial policy and structural reforms, both at EU and at national and regional levels.
Vice-President Tajani will present four recently adopted Commission Communications. Firstly, he will describe the Communication "For a European industrial renaissance" (IP/14/42 and MEMO/14/37) in which the Commission has set out its key priorities for industrial policy, providing an overview of actions already undertaken, and put forward a limited number of new actions to speed up the attainment of its overarching objective: raising the contribution of industry to GDP to as much as 20% by 2020. Secondly, he will highlight the main conclusions of the Communication "A vision for the internal market for industrial products": internal market legislation for products is not only a key factor for the competitiveness of European industry but also for consumer and environmental protection. However, it also emphasizes that efforts to strengthen enforcement mechanisms need to be stepped up. Thirdly, he will discuss industry challenges linked to the high prices of energy as underlined in the Communication on "Energy prices and costs in Europe". Finally, Vice President Tajani will present "A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030" which represents a new step on the EU’s path to achieve by 2050 a competitive, low carbon economy. In order to ensure the environmental integrity of our energy and climate policy - while maintaining in Europe a vivid and flourishing industry along the entire industrial value chain - the Commission proposed to maintain its measures against carbon leakage.
9th ministerial meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean on Euro-Mediterranean industrial cooperation (Brussels, 19 February 2014)
Vice-President Tajani will inform Ministers about the outcome of the 9th ministerial meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean on industrial cooperation which will take place on the eve of the Competitiveness Council meeting. He will co-chair the meeting with the Minister for Industry & Trade of the Kingdom of Jordan, Hatem Hafez Al-Halawani Al-Tamimi. In addition to the 44 partners of the Union for the Mediterranean, a number of international and national professional associations are expected to participate. A declaration on Euro-Mediterranean industrial cooperation and the related 2014-2015 work programme are expected to be adopted by Ministers (MEMO/14/115).
European Tourism Quality Principles and a European Strategy for Coastal and Maritime Tourism
On the date of their adoption, Vice-President Tajani will inform the Council about two important Commission initiatives aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of European Tourism: a "Proposal for a Council Recommendation on European Tourism Quality Principles" and "Communication on a European Strategy for Coastal and Maritime Tourism". The recommended principles will provide manifold advantages for the tourism industry, the Member States and citizens alike. The new strategy for coastal and maritime tourism represents a significant step towards strengthening Europe’s position as the world’s n° 1 tourist destination, addressing aspects such as gaps in data collection, high seasonality, product and tourism offer diversification, innovation, connectivity and accessibility of islands and remote coastal areas, skills development and protection of the marine environment.
Hybrid nutrition labelling system
The launch in June 2013 of a voluntary colour coded labelling recommendation in the UK triggered vivid reactions from various EU economic operators. Italy requested discussion of this point during the Competiveness Council – as it already did last year in the Agriculture and Health Council - to inform Ministers about the alleged discriminatory and negative effect of the "traffic light" nutrition labelling system recommended in the UK, and to call on the Commission to thoroughly assess the conformity of the system with the EU law and its impact on the internal market.
Update on State aid modernisation
The European Commission launched in May 2012 State Aid Modernisation (SAM) (IP/12/458), an ambitious reform package for State aid policy with three objectives: facilitating well-designed aid targeted at market failures and objectives of common European interest; focusing enforcement on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market; streamlining rules and taking faster decisions.
SAM implementation is now well advanced. Last year, the Council adopted the new Procedural regulation, which improves the efficiency and effectiveness of State aid control, and the revised Enabling regulation, which introduces new categories of aid that the Commission may decide to exempt from the obligation of prior notification.
The Commission has already adopted a number of revised rules, including the new Regional Aid Guidelines, to support the development of disadvantaged regions in Europe between 2014 and 2020, the new "De minimis" regulation, which exempts aid amounts of up to €200 000 per undertaking over a three year period and now also includes companies in financial difficulty, the new Risk Finance guidelines, allowing Member States to facilitate access to finance by SMEs and companies with a medium capitalization (so-called "midcaps") and, very recently, the new guidelines for the aviation sector.
The Commission has also recently consulted on several draft rules, which are expected to be adopted in the coming weeks, including the new and expanded General Block Exemption Regulation, the new framework on State aid for Research, Development and Innovation, and the new guidelines for aid in the fields of energy and environment.
Vice-President Almunia will present to the Council the state of play of the SAM initiative and discuss how to ensure effective implementation of the new rules.
More information on State aid modernisation is available here:
Contribution to the European Semester and upcoming European Council meetings
The Competitiveness Council will hold a policy debate ahead of the discussion on the European Semester at the upcoming Spring European Council on 20-21 March 2014. The debate will be based on the Annual Growth Survey 2014 and the annual report on the Single Market integration published on 13 November 2013 (IP/13/1064).
The debate will focus on the priorities identified in the Annual Growth Survey to promote growth and competitiveness, in particular improving the functioning and flexibility of product and services markets. This includes measures identified in the annual report on the Single Market integration, such as the implementation of the Services Directive, including as regards professional services.
Commissioner Barnier will call on Member States to pursue reforms for competitiveness which support the recovery that is underway. This is also needed in order to address the biggest problem Europe is still facing: unemployment, especially youth unemployment. Commissioner Barnier will also present proposals on how to ensure together with Member States well-functioning services markets, including a more ambitious implementation of the Services Directive.
E-invoicing in public procurement
On 24 January 2014, the European Parliament and the Council reached agreement in trilogue on a draft directive on e-invoicing in public procurement (MEMO/14/59).
E-invoicing is an important step towards paperless public administration (e-government) in Europe – one of the priorities of the Digital Agenda - and offers the potential for significant economic as well as environmental benefits. The Commission estimates that the adoption of e-invoicing in public procurement across the EU could generate savings of up to €2.3 billion.
The Council is expected to take note of the latest developments and make general policy comments (the formal vote will take place once the Parliament has voted in plenary, expected in March/April).
Statute for a European Foundation
On 8 February 2012, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a European Foundation Statute to make it easier for foundations to support public benefit causes across the EU (IP/12/112).
The aim of the proposal is to create a single European legal form - the ‘European Foundation’ (FE) – which would be fundamentally the same in all Member States. It would exist in parallel with domestic foundation forms. Acquiring the status of a European Foundation would be subject to a number of requirements (e.g. public benefit purpose, cross-border dimension, minimum assets) and would be entirely voluntary. The European Foundation Statute was announced in the 2011 Single Market Act (IP/11/469). The Single Market Act underlined the contribution of foundations to the financing of innovative initiatives in the public interest and called for action to overcome the difficulties foundations face when operating across the EU.
The Council is expected to discuss the progress achieved so far and the plans for work on this proposal under the Greek Presidency. Commissioner Barnier will underline how the Statute could facilitate the cross-border activities of foundations and the foundation sector’s strong support for this initiative. He will call on Member States to actively look for solutions to the remaining issues and to reach a compromise on the Statute as soon as possible.
Friday, 21 February
European Research Area
Ministers are expected to discuss and adopt conclusions on the European Commission's first European Research Area (ERA) Progress Report, presented last September (IP/13/851). EU Heads of State and Government have called for the completion of the ERA by 2014 and underlined the need in this context for accelerating the reform of national research systems. Member States are expected to signal that legislation to address remaining obstacles to ERA is something that should be used only when there is a clear need. They are also expected to invite Member States to set out the objectives of ERA in a roadmap to guide national policy developments. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will recall the deadline set by the European Council and say the Commission will decide on the most appropriate way forward following the presentation of the next ERA Progress Report in the autumn.
Innovation Investment Package
Research ministers will review the state of play in negotiations with the European Parliament on the Innovation Investment Package (IIP). The IIP, presented by the Commission on 10 July 2013 (IP/13/668), proposes establishing four public-public partnerships with Member States (based on Article 185 TFEU) and five public-private partnerships (based on Article 187 TFEU) with the aim of leveraging some €22 billion in research and innovation investment by 2020. The package also proposes to extend an initiative to pool research and innovation investments in Air Traffic Management (SESAR), in support of the Single European Sky (IP/13/664). The Council adopted its General Approach on the package last December. Parliament's ITRE committee gave its view on the package in January. Trilogue talks are taking place with the aim of reaching a possible first reading agreement before May's European Parliament elections.
The four public-public partnerships (Art 185s) are proposed in the areas of new treatments against poverty-related diseases, measurement technologies for industrial competitiveness, support for high tech SMEs and solutions for the elderly and disabled to live safely in their homes. According to the Commission's proposal, they would be supported with €1.5 billion from the Horizon 2020 budget and participating states would commit €2 billion.
The five public-private partnerships (Art 187s) are proposed in the areas of innovative medicines, aeronautics, bio-based industries, fuel cells and hydrogen, and electronics. For the five programmes in total, a proposed €6.4 billion investment from Horizon 2020 would secure almost €10 billion from industry and €1.2 billion from the Member States. These research partnerships will boost the competitiveness of EU industry in sectors that already provide more than 4 million jobs. They will also find solutions to major challenges for society that are not being solved quickly enough by the market alone.
Relations between European Union and European Space Agency (ESA)
The Ministerial lunch will be dedicated to exchanging views on the relations between the European Union and the European Space Agency. Vice-President Tajani and Director-General of ESA Jean-Jacques Dordain will discuss different options with the Ministers. The discussion on EU-ESA relations will continue during the afternoon session dedicated to space in which Vice-President Tajani will present the "Progress Report on EU-ESA relations" which outlines the status of the Commission's reflections on the future of relations with ESA. Vice-President Tajani will emphasise the importance of these relations for the implementation of the EU flagship space programmes, Galileo and Copernicus. The report, which is a follow-up to the Commission Communication of 14 November 2012, presents a further step in the Commission’s analysis of the need for improvements in the current set-up of EU-ESA relations. It contains a preliminary assessment of several scenarios for evolution, among which an improvement in the current set-up through a revision of the existing 2004 EU/ESA framework agreement, the creation of an “EU pillar” of ESA, or transforming ESA into an EU agency. Ministers will exchange views on the possible scenarios and provide political guidance on the next steps in order to move this discussion forward.
International space exploration forum (Washington DC, 9-10 January 2014)
Vice-President Tajani will inform Ministers about the positive results of the International Space Exploration Forum meeting which took place on 9 January 2014 in Washington D.C. He will stress the importance of building public support for space exploration by demonstrating how investing in space benefits humankind, prepares our future in science and technology, and boosts innovation, leading to growth. The Forum is a follow-up to the process initiated in Europe with a cycle of high-level conferences of Prague (2009), Brussels (2010) and Lucca (2011). The Commission will continue its involvement in high-level political discussions on space exploration and will help, with the United States, Japan to prepare the next space exploration forum to be held in 2016 or 2017.
A Space Surveillance and Tracking Support Framework
The Presidency will inform the Competitiveness Council about the agreement reached with the European Parliament on the decision establishing a Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Support Framework. Vice-President Tajani will congratulate the Greek Presidency on achieving an agreement in a very short period of time so that it can be adopted before the end of this legislative period. He will emphasise that this is an important milestone in the creation of a capability for the monitoring and surveillance of space infrastructure and space debris at European level.